The signs scattered outside Sam Boyd Stadium on Sunday morning were eye-catching.
One showed a picture of a blueberry pie. “Equal rights. It’s not pie,” it read. “More for everyone does not mean less for you.”
Another read “Get the Heller out of here. Everything is coming up Rosen.”
And one said simply “Grab ’em by the midterms.”
Thousands of women, and some men, flocked to Las Vegas to mark a full year since the Women’s March on Washington, which drew more than 2 million participants worldwide, and to participate in a rally that lasted more than six hours.
The event, which came a day after tens of thousands of people joined women’s marches nationwide, featured speakers and music and kicked off a nationwide Democratic voter registration tour dubbed #PowerToThePolls.
The stadium, which holds 35,500, was about one-quarter full.
Local co-organizer Michelle White said Nevada, and specifically Las Vegas, was chosen for the national event because it’s a battleground for so many key issues.
“What really drew people to this place is, of course, the diversity and how a lot of the issues we’re hearing in the national debate: immigration, voting rights, women’s choice,” White said. “It’s issues that impact so many Nevadans here on the ground every single day.”
Before the gates opened, Las Vegas residents Sarah Logsdon, Melissa McKinsey, Joey Sleiman and Lisa Boyd carried signs and wore pink knitted hats, called “pussyhats,” which became a symbol for last year’s march.
As the event began, Native Americans danced to a tribal song in remembrance of the murdered and missing indigenous women in the United States. Others rapped and sang, chanting the lyrics to Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect” and Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman.”
Then came an invocation from faith leaders including Rabbi Yocheved Mintz and Pastor Carol Simpson and remarks from state Sen. Patricia Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, U.S. Reps. Dina Titus, Jacky Rosen, both D-Nev., and U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.
Rosen, Titus and Cortez Masto had planned to attend Sunday’s event but stayed in Washington to address the federal government shutdown over funding.
Linda Sarsour, a Muslim-American and national co-chairwoman of the Women’s March, pumped up the participants.
“I want to see the most beautiful headline you’ve ever seen: ‘Women lead us to victory,’” she said. “That’s the story I want to be a part of.”
“First she marched, then she ran,” she said. “Now, let’s get out and run.”
In response, a man in the crowd shouted, “Get ’er done!”
Elaine Wynn, honorary chairwoman of the Las Vegas Women’s March, pointed out that Nevada has three “lady mayors” — Hillary Schieve of Reno, Debra March of Henderson, and Carolyn Goodman of Las Vegas — and has many women in office.
“Now women understand that there’s no magic that’s going to happen in the absence of becoming involved and in a democracy,” Wynn said. “Things change peacefully, and the only way they can change peacefully is at the polls.”
A particularly perilous poll position may belong to Dean Heller. His Senate seat is considered one of the most vulnerable of any Republican seeking re-election. Heller said by email that he’s used to facing opposition.
“It’s our system of government,” Heller wrote, “and none of us should be afraid to explain why we are the better candidate for the job.”
But Heller asserted that Nevada is a “conservative state” and said having two liberal senators would not represent Nevada.
Before the march, Republican Assemblyman Chris Edwards told the Review-Journal he didn’t think a lot of participants knew the issues.
“I’m all for civic participation, and that’s the American way,” Edwards said. “I don’t know what kind of a true educational aspect they have about the issues.”
To govern the country well, Edwards said, representatives, regardless of sex, gender, race, orientation, ethnicity, must be “smart enough and able enough to work with one another to come up with good policies that are good for anybody.”
But Las Vegas co-chairwoman Wynn said women just want to be part of the democratic process.
“How many times have we watched on television a meeting adjourn and there’s an outpouring of all men and maybe one woman?” she asked. “We want to be in the room where it happens.”
Last year’s march was criticized for not being inclusive. Sex workers and women of color said they felt particularly excluded. This year’s lineup changed that, including representatives from the Desiree Alliance, a sex workers advocacy group, the LGBT Center of Southern Nevada and DREAM Big Las Vegas, a support network for undocumented young people in the valley.
“I want you to see the sex workers rights movement as part of the solution and not the problem,” said Cris Sardina, president of the Desiree Alliance. “Don’t dismiss my womanhood. I am a sex worker, and I have the right to be here.”
Organizer Bob Bland brought her children, including her 1-year-old daughter, onstage with her and stressed the need to fight for everyone’s rights.
“Women are not a monolith,” Bland said. “They live multi-issue lives, and as white women, we have the power to transform things by decentering ourselves.”
Christine Caria, a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting survivor and president of the local Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told the crowd that gun violence is a women’s issue. She said women are 11 times more likely to die from guns because of domestic violence.
“Nevadans are going to vote with these things in mind,” she said, “because it happened in our backyard.”
Contact Briana Erickson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5244. Follow @brianarerick on Twitter. Contact Madelyn Reese at email@example.com or 702-383-0497. Follow @MadelynGReese on Twitter.
Photos courtesy of Andrea Cornejo and Richard Brian